Astronomical Anderson Error

NASA seems to have “overlooked” a little over a half billion in taxpayer funds. Chairman Sensenbrenner wasn’t happy:

“I’m deeply disappointed that the agency that could send a man to the moon now can’t even balance its books to the nearest half-billion. Inattention to details such as using English or metric units, or making $590 million accounting errors indicate significant management problems continue to bedevil NASA.”

Of course, it’s not like NASA accounting disasters are news, but what was really interesting and topical was this little tidbit:

The error, detected by the House Science Committee, went unnoticed by auditors at Arthur Andersen LLP, the independent accounting firm hired to examine the space agency’s financial books.

Yup, look for the Big Five to become the Big Four any day now…

Blog Problems

If anyone was trying to add comments in the last twelve hours or so, my software was screwed up, so you might want to go back and try again now. I’ve had to revert to the backup from last evening…

I’m in the process of switching over from Greymatter to Moveable Type. Unfortunately, I’ve been hacking Greymatter over time to get it to do some things that I wanted it to do, and that’s made it more difficult to convert the files. I hope to get it sorted out this week, but until then, I’m stuck with GM and its occasional bugginess.

Preserving Space

You know, when I first saw this a few days ago, I didn’t mention it, because I thought it was a joke. But when I went and did a search at Thomas, it turned out to be real. Dennis “the Menace” Kucinich (D-Ohio) actually introduced it. This is loonytunes squared.

Going against my normal posting style, in the interest of HTML simplicity, I’m going to italicize my comments from here on in, rather than the quoted text:

Space Preservation Act of 2001 (Introduced in the House)

HR 2977 IH

107th CONGRESS

1st Session

H. R. 2977

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

October 2, 2001

Mr. KUCINICH introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Science, and in addition to the Committees on Armed Services, and International Relations, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned

A BILL

To preserve the cooperative, peaceful uses of space for the benefit of all humankind by permanently prohibiting the basing of weapons in space by the United States, and to require the President to take action to adopt and implement a world treaty banning space-based weapons.

So, it’s OK to have weapons pass through space (e.g., ballistic missiles), as long as we don’t actually base them there? Yes, by all means, let’s preserve space as a sanctuary for missiles. Let’s go on, and see just how he defines “space-based,” and “weapons.”

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

This Act may be cited as the `Space Preservation Act of 2001′.

SEC. 2. REAFFIRMATION OF POLICY ON THE PRESERVATION OF PEACE IN SPACE.

Congress reaffirms the policy expressed in section 102(a) of the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958 (42 U.S.C. 2451(a)), stating that it `is the policy of the United States that activities in space should be devoted to peaceful purposes for the benefit of all mankind.’.

SEC. 3. PERMANENT BAN ON BASING OF WEAPONS IN SPACE.

The President shall–

(1) implement a permanent ban on space-based weapons of the United States and remove from space any existing space-based weapons of the United States; and

(2) immediately order the permanent termination of research and development, testing, manufacturing, production, and deployment of all space-based weapons of the United States and their components.

Hmmmm…while this is a monumentally dumb concept to begin with (gun control?–that trick never works…), we’ll have to get down to the definitions section (what’s “space-based”? What’s a “weapon”? What’s a “space-based weapon”?) before we can really tear it to shreds, and demonstrate just how disastrous a policy it would be for anyone who hopes to develop space. Of course, one suspects that Mr. Kucinich and whatever other loons he found to co-sponsor don’t actually care much about that

SEC. 4. WORLD AGREEMENT BANNING SPACE-BASED WEAPONS.

The President shall direct the United States representatives to the United Nations and other international organizations to immediately work toward negotiating, adopting, and implementing a world agreement banning space-based weapons.

Yeah! That’s it! A treaty!

Everyone always obeys treaties! And if anyone tries to cheat, and put any of those nasty “space-based weapons” up there, well, space isn’t all that big–we’ll find ’em…

SEC. 5. REPORT.

The President shall submit to Congress not later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, and every 90 days thereafter, a report on–

(1) the implementation of the permanent ban on space-based weapons required by section 3; and

(2) progress toward negotiating, adopting, and implementing the agreement described in section 4.

Dear Congress:

Over the past ninety days, we talked to lots of countries, and made lots of progress in negotiating, adopting, and implementing the agreement.

Signed,

GW (space cowboy) Bush

repeat as necessary

SEC. 6. NON SPACE-BASED WEAPONS ACTIVITIES.

Nothing in this Act may be construed as prohibiting the use of funds for–

(1) space exploration;

(2) space research and development;

(3) testing, manufacturing, or production that is not related to space-based weapons or systems; or

(4) civil, commercial, or defense activities (including communications, navigation, surveillance, reconnaissance, early warning, or remote sensing) that are not related to space-based weapons or systems.

Well, that’s a relief. Glad to know that they don’t want to restrict exploration (which may result in the discovery of asteroids that could be diverted as “weapons”), or research and development (which might be applied to “space-based weapons”), or testing, manufacturing, or production that is not related to space-based weapons systems (wonder how they’ll know?), or communications, navigation, surveillance, reconnaissance, early-warning, or remote sensing (that are all necessary in order to build or effectively use “weapons”).

Now, for the truly fun part, for the lawyers among us…

SEC. 7. DEFINITIONS.

In this Act:

(1) The term `space’ means all space extending upward from an altitude greater than 60 kilometers above the surface of the earth and any celestial body in such space.

Hmmm…, where did they come up with that number? It used to be fifty miles to get astronaut’s wings, and the international standard is a hundred kilometers (or approximately 62 statute miles). I wonder if someone screwed up their units, like NASA with the Mars probe?

(2)(A) The terms `weapon’ and `weapons system’ mean a device capable of any of the following:

(i) Damaging or destroying an object (whether in outer space, in the atmosphere, or on earth) by–

(I) firing one or more projectiles to collide with that object;

Like throwing a wrench from a space station?

(II) detonating one or more explosive devices in close proximity to that object;

Ya mean, like the propellant tanks of an orbital transfer stage?

(III) directing a source of energy (including molecular or atomic energy, subatomic particle beams, electromagnetic radiation, plasma, or extremely low frequency (ELF) or ultra low frequency (ULF) energy radiation) against that object; or

As in, e.g., beaming power from one platform to another, or to provide clean energy to the earth from orbit? Or by sending communications that could hack it and command some destructive activity?

(IV) any other unacknowledged or as yet undeveloped means.

Well, I guess they covered all their bases…

(ii) Inflicting death or injury on, or damaging or destroying, a person (or the biological life, bodily health, mental health, or physical and economic well-being of a person)–

(I) through the use of any of the means described in clause (i) or subparagraph (B);

(II) through the use of land-based, sea-based, or space-based systems using radiation, electromagnetic, psychotronic, sonic, laser, or other energies directed at individual persons or targeted populations for the purpose of information war, mood management, or mind control of such persons or populations; or

Psychotronic? Mood management? Mind control?

[cue theme from The Twilight Zone]

Doo, de, doo, doo, Doo, de, doo, doo, Doo, de, doo, doo, Doo, de, doo, doo…

(III) by expelling chemical or biological agents in the vicinity of a person.

Ummmm… you mean like rocket exhaust?

(B) Such terms include exotic weapons systems such as–

(i) electronic, psychotronic, or information weapons;

(ii) chemtrails;

Chemtrails? WTF are chemtrails?

(iii) high altitude ultra low frequency weapons systems;

(iv) plasma, electromagnetic, sonic, or ultrasonic weapons;

(v) laser weapons systems;

(vi) strategic, theater, tactical, or extraterrestrial weapons; and

(vii) chemical, biological, environmental, climate, or tectonic weapons.

Tectonic weapons?

Someone’s paranoia engine was running in overdrive here.

(C) The term `exotic weapons systems’ includes weapons designed to damage space or natural ecosystems (such as the ionosphere and upper atmosphere) or climate, weather, and tectonic systems with the purpose of inducing damage or destruction upon a target population or region on earth or in space.

I’m at a loss for words

Fortunately, I can’t imagine this ever getting out of the Science Committee, with its present composition. But if the Dems take over the House this year, look out next year…

There’s A New Blog In Town

Well, OK, that’s a headline that I could put up almost every day, or several times a day, based on the current growth rate.

But the little discussion between me, Jeff Jarvis, Bill Quick, Jackson Murphy (not to mention blog nobility Andrew Sullivan) on whether or not media bias is fact or fiction has brought another one out of the woodwork.

From his website:

The Media Minder is a copy editor at one of America’s largest daily newspapers. He has over 12 years of experience in print journalism, including stints at newspapers both small and large. He has been a reporter, but has focused on copy editing almost exclusively for the past eight years. Because the Minder posts a lot from work, he wishes to remain anonymous.

Well, I guess we know that it’s a “he.” That narrows down the mystery a little…

There’s A New Blog In Town

Well, OK, that’s a headline that I could put up almost every day, or several times a day, based on the current growth rate.

But the little discussion between me, Jeff Jarvis, Bill Quick, Jackson Murphy (not to mention blog nobility Andrew Sullivan) on whether or not media bias is fact or fiction has brought another one out of the woodwork.

From his website:

The Media Minder is a copy editor at one of America’s largest daily newspapers. He has over 12 years of experience in print journalism, including stints at newspapers both small and large. He has been a reporter, but has focused on copy editing almost exclusively for the past eight years. Because the Minder posts a lot from work, he wishes to remain anonymous.

Well, I guess we know that it’s a “he.” That narrows down the mystery a little…

There’s A New Blog In Town

Well, OK, that’s a headline that I could put up almost every day, or several times a day, based on the current growth rate.

But the little discussion between me, Jeff Jarvis, Bill Quick, Jackson Murphy (not to mention blog nobility Andrew Sullivan) on whether or not media bias is fact or fiction has brought another one out of the woodwork.

From his website:

The Media Minder is a copy editor at one of America’s largest daily newspapers. He has over 12 years of experience in print journalism, including stints at newspapers both small and large. He has been a reporter, but has focused on copy editing almost exclusively for the past eight years. Because the Minder posts a lot from work, he wishes to remain anonymous.

Well, I guess we know that it’s a “he.” That narrows down the mystery a little…

Taxi Driver G2

Megan McArdle notes, in reference to a post about Argentina:

TNR describes the social chaos in Argentina. It all boils down to this one delicious quote (from a taxi driver, of course; P.J. O’Rourke says that all third world taxi drivers are under contract to UPI to provide memorable quotes)…

It’s not just a third-world deal–I get good info from them even in the first world (i.e., between my house and LAX). This reminds me that about a week before 911, I flew down to San Juan from LA, and since I was going to be gone for longer than I wanted to pay parking, and the flight was too early in the morning for the bus, I took a cab. When I got in, I heard music from his cassette that sounded vaguely Persian. I asked the driver, and he said that it was.

“Are you Iranian?”

“No, I’m from Afghanistan, but the music is very similar.”

Oh.

“So, how long have you been in America?”

“About twelve years. We left in 1979 when the Russians invaded, and went to Germany. Then I came here.”

“Do you think that the Taliban will remain in power?”

He was surprised at this question. I suspect that most of his fares couldn’t find Afghanistan on a map of Afghanistan.

“No, sir. The people are very unhappy. They may last a month, they may last a year, but they will not be there long.”

“But you like Persian music. I assume that you must be Pashtun. The Taliban are Pashtun. What’s the problem?”

Now he’s really weirded out.

“They are Pashtun, but they do not have the support of the Afghan people, in the west or the north. They rule by force and cruelty alone. They are not acting in the interest of Afghanistan.”

About this time, we were pulling up to the terminal. In retrospect, it might have been instructive to continue the conversation, but who knew…?

A friend of mine has a theory about third-world unrest. He claims that you can tell what country will be the next trouble spot, by counting ethnic restaurant openings (by expatriots), particularly in DC, as a leading indicator.

The last time I flew, when I went to St. Louis, the driver was from Bangladesh. But that’s another story…

The Palace Of Arrrrggghhhh

While reading a piece in Opinion Journal about the Taliban destruction of Afghanistan’s artwork, I ran across this, which is apparently describing a real place.

The Argh Palace here bears some of the worst scars of the frenzy to obliterate.

First the crack suicide squads, then the Taliban blustering with its limbs cut off, and now this.

(Remember the scene where Eric Idle was reading the last words scrawled on the wall in the cave, in The Holy Grail, after fighting off the killer rabbit with the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch?

“He wouldn’t have written ‘arrrrgggghhh.'”

“Maybe he was dictating.”).

Life and this war continue to imitate Monty Python.

Biting Commentary about Infinity…and Beyond!

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